SCRANTON — After being terminated from his 29 1/2-year career, Dave Bresnahan redirected his skills and knowledge of the floral supply industry. With guidance from a valued mentor, he opened his own business in March.
At the time, Bresnahan, of Hanover Township, said he was one of the top sales agents for a supplier in the Wyoming Valley. The shock of receiving his termination papers that morning caused him to become panic-stricken.
A father of three, he searched for a job for three months.
“I was often overqualified,” he said.
Looking for a way to pay the bills, Bresnahan, 53, began to consider becoming his own boss.
He is part of a growing trend. Many displaced workers are seeking an alternative by building their own businesses and revising the American Dream, experts say.
Chuck Pierce, assistant director at the Wilkes University Small Business Development Center, said he is seeing an increase in clients who are displaced or notified of an upcoming job loss.
Bresnahan knew he had some support.
“I had received about 100 phone calls from former clients asking me to please come back,” he said.
A lifeline was tossed in his direction when Brian McCarthy, president and CEO of McCarthy Group Florist.com, reached out to him.
McCarthy, from Atlanta, Georgia, was impressed with Bresnahan’s ambition to find the lowest prices for his former clients and strong customer service skills. He offered a solution — a line of credit to help start Bresnahan’s wholesale business.
In return, Bresnahan became the director of purchasing for McCarthy’s 38 locations in 13 different states.
Seizing the opportunity, Bresnahan combined his experience with new knowledge and contacts gained through McCarthy.
“I was able to shave a lot off the bottom line,” Bresnahan said.
Still overseeing the purchasing for McCarthy Group Florist.com, Bresnahan now stands tall in his own brick-and-mortar shop, Associated Wholesale Floral East in Scranton. Opening his doors in the beginning of March, he maintains 60 clients.
“I feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger,” he said. “I am back.”
Appreciative of McCarthy’s mentoring, Bresnahan said he still turns to his friend for advice.
“He has 40 years of industry experience to share,” Bresnahan said. “I still look to him for pointers.”
Crawl, walk, run
One of the resonating tips McCarthy shared about running a business is first “crawl, then walk and then run.” Bresnahan said the idea behind this motto is grow a business slowly.
“I am trying to grow but slowly,” he said. “I do not want to grow so fast that my service level drops and I disappoint my clients.”
Great customer service for his clients is just one of the three key factors he used to stay a step ahead of his competition. The other two are providing free delivery and “rock bottom pricing.”
Taking customer satisfaction seriously, Bresnahan said his clients have his cell phone number in case there is an immediate need.
Being in business involves a lot of long hours and hard work, Bresnahan said. Normal business hours do not apply to him. Starting his days at 6 a.m., there is no defined end-of-day time frame. He said he leaves when the work is finished.
Just wrapping up from one of the biggest floral holiday’s, Mother’s Day, Bresnahan noted it was “wicked busy.” There was a lot of running to meet his clients’ needs so the business could stay on top of orders, he said.
“It was a 90-hour work week,” he said.
Bresnahan advises others considering self-employment as an option for financial stability to understand it is a lot of hard work, with long hours.
“You have to marry the business,” he said. “If you have a Type A personality and are willing to give it 102 percent, you will not get rich, but it will pay the bills.”
Bresnahan plans to retire from the business years from now, but in the meantime, he is just trying to make a living.
“It was a great thing I fell in to,” Bresnahan said as he reflected on his career change.